Sunday, July 12, 2020

No Mojo July

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. ― Albert Einstein
I skipped my blogpost last weekend for two reasons.

The first reason was I was getting over a week of headaches. Not headaches in the "annoying problem" sense of the word. I mean actual headaches. And a week of them is not something I am accustomed to living with.

I noticed that I was feeling kinda headachey after coming back from a run, and I attributed it to being a bit tired, maybe feeling hungry, maybe needing more water. But then they started to follow me through each day, making me tip my head this way and that, trying to stretch my neck and my shoulders. And then I noticed that I was taking pain killers a little more often than I normally would. And then I woke up in the middle of the night one night with one already in full force. And that was really not ok for me.

I am fortunate to work with people who can help me with these kinds of things. It took about a week of different things: a short massage, some needling, some poking and prodding and adjusting and stretching, and by the weekend (last weekend), I was feeling mostly back to myself, except I felt like I needed a weekend away from a screen just to be sure. And now I am happy to say I feel completely better, and I regard it as a total miracle. And I am grateful. I also feel so sorry to know that there are folks who live with that kind of pain all the time, and I am ever so much more empathetic to them.

The second reason I didn't post last weekend was that I am quite annoyed with my current project. I knew there was a reason I didn't make projects requiring crochet squares. It's because I really don't like making crochet squares. I am finding them tedious and uninspiring. I hate switching colours all the time. I hate having to remember what stitch I'm supposed to be doing next. And I keep finding other things I would rather do than work on these squares. I play on my phone. I wash pots and pans. I do yoga. I play more on my phone. It is not going well.

And yet: I am so stubborn about working on only one project at a time that I refuse to switch to something else.

I think I might have found a way to make the whole thing less annoying. I've been making the circular bits and then putting them aside until I have a few finished and then I blast through squaring them off with the neutral beige yarn. I think that is better, but I'll let you know once I make a few more:

I think another reason I've been so uninspired by it is because I've been having trouble making them all the same size, and I'm worried that I'm going to end up with a super wonky blanket at the end. This is the problem with not working with a full pattern: it really is an experiment that could go terribly wrong, and after weeks of work that could really, really suck. I decided this afternoon that I would finally take all the squares I'd finished and soak them and block them in stacks to force them all to be the same size (Isay that I decided that this afternoon, but I actually decided that last week and it's taken me seven full days to finally make myself do it):

It is a miracle that they are all actually blocking out to be about the same size. Thank goodness for that.

To be honest, I've been struggling the last couple of days to feel positive about stuff. I think I am not alone when I say that I'm getting weary of having to consider a global pandemic in just about every single decision I make. I'd really like stuff to go back to normal sometime soon. But that, as we know, will either take a lot more patience or another miracle. I'm open to both at this stage.

But when we went out today, I noticed a few pretty cool miracles out there, like this incredible blossom I saw growing on a tree at the park today. I have no idea what it is, but it is beautiful. I put my hand next to it in an attempt to show its size, but it's about the size of a large grapefruit and I think it will bloom to be about the size of my head:

I also saw this amazing rose arch whilst out on a walk a few days ago. How's that for inspiration?

And on another walk, Seymour brought my attention to this little eggshell on the path. I can't believe it hadn't been crushed yet:

And closer to home: the hydrangea that I over pruned last year is so heavy with blossoms this year that I've had to stake it up with whatever I can find in the yard. I don't normally cut garden flowers to put in vases, but I felt pretty ok about doing it this time, if only to reduce the strain on the actual shrub:

The flowers in the garden, in general, have been really impressive this year. This is what it looks like as I approach the house each day, and the sight stops me in my tracks each time:

After writing about all of those little miraculous bits of inspiration, I admit that I feel a wee bit better. I suppose I have to try more to see the world in the same way Mr. Seymour does: with eyes of wonder and adventure... and with special attention to the possibility of snacks:

Anyway, off to make dinner. Have a good week.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Leap to the End of June

When IS the right time to do something fantastic? --Chris Hadfield
Apparently, it is the last weekend of June. I'd like to talk to the person in charge of time right now because I'm pretty sure we're at LEAST two weeks fast right now. Wasn't it just the end of May? Was I not just putting away my winter clothes? Am I supposed to be shaving my legs now?

The garden seems to be right on time, even if I am not. The strawberries are giving us a lovely yield each day, a very useful and convenient cupful of strawberries for our yogurt or cereal:

And my flowers are certainly doing a good job of surprising me. Apparently, I have white roses. I had no idea they were there. I guess they didn't bloom last year. Either that, or they are so shocked that it is nearly July that they're drained of belief:

But the hydrangeas which I over-pruned a couple of autumns ago are so heavy with blooms that I had to prop them up today to keep them from falling over:

Our blueberry shrubs are also leading up to quite a crop this year. I've never seen so many berries on a branch before. If the birds go for them, there's gonna be a fight, lemme tell ya:

Meanwhile, I seem to wax and wane with energy from full throttle to put-put-putting along. When the energy is high, I experiment in the kitchen and on the barbecue with interesting meals. I made a tart (or more accurately, a galette, if you're keeping score) on the barbecue today. I grilled the veggies and then put them on some puffed pastry on a sheet pan along with some Dijon to keep it interesting. I topped it with some smoked salmon when it was done. I forgot to put some oil on the foil before I put the pastry on top, but the pastry gods forgave me and allowed me to peel it off without losing too much stuff:

And the crochet square blanket continues. I've given up on looking at the colour wheel for inspiration and just started whacking colours together that I think look nice next to each other:

I'm a little discouraged right now because I was looking at the stack of squares on the table today and thought, "Surely I have enough for at least half a blanket." But it turns out that I barely have enough for a large pillowcase. There's gotta be a way to speed this up:

But I think the crochet speed is not actually the problem here:

In truth, I think I'm napping more these days because I've started working with a coach and getting my fitness levels back up and I've built myself back up to a 30-minute run. I started back when I got back from Winnipeg after my father passed. Work was closed and I was feeling a bit lost, so I figured, "If not now, when?" It's been a good process, a way to re-learn how to do things at a kinder, more sustainable pace. It feels good to be running without pain after a couple of years of stopping and starting. It's amazing what you can do when you sleep enough and stretch enough and eat enough good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, I have another experiment going on the barbecue right now that I should go an check on. I hope you are all well and looking after each other. Be kind to yourself and others.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Eggsactly No Motivation

The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell. --Zora Neale Hurston
It's that time of year when abundance comes to Vancouver Island. Farms have fresh strawberries, the fishermen are bringing in cod and tuna, the flowers are bursting into bloom...

And eggs. I dunno why, but I seem to be getting offers for free eggs from here there and everywhere.

I gave in the other day and accepted a flat of 36 eggs, only to discover that the hubby had brought home a couple dozen from the grocery store that same day. I mean, we go through a fair number of eggs around here, but 60 eggs are about two dozen too many, no matter how long they last in the fridge.

I set about trying to work through them this weekend. Yesterday, I made a quiche with filo pastry, inspired by a video by Jamie Oliver I watched the other day. I cooked up some turkey bacon, shredded leeks, and zucchini and tossed in some fresh basil, oregano, and mint along with some pureed sundried tomatoes. It turned out really well, and I really like the crispiness of the filo pastry as a change from the regular shortcrust pastry. Six eggs down:

This morning, I contemplated all of the recipes I'd heard of that use a lot of eggs, but in the end, I decided to go with a recipe I found online for a 12 Egg Pound Cake. It's a bit of a misnomer because it actually makes two cakes, but I was all for smashing through another dozen. I got a bit nervous as I was mixing it up. Twelve eggs plus all of the other ingredients turns out to be quite a volume:

But apart from worrying about the batter overflowing in the mixing bowl, it was a relatively simple recipe. And yes, now I have two cakes to get through. I brought a few slices over to a neighbour and I think I can probably offload some at work, but a little extra cake is probably not a bad problem to have sometimes:

Egg total: eighteen. And then I used four more for omelettes for lunch. Twenty-two down. And it's only Sunday.

I haven't just been juggling eggs in the kitchen. I've been wandering around the garden looking at my vegetables and watching as the red rhododendrons that grow outside our front window go through their annual bloom. I find it so satisfying because they set their buds in the autumn and then hang onto them all winter until the time is just right. I look at them every morning as I eat my breakfast, and when I see the buds begin to swell, I start to get really excited. They do not disappoint:

And the hydrangeas that I over-pruned a couple of autumns ago have come back this year in an amazing show of buds that are just beginning to bloom. I feel so grateful that the garden fairies have not held my over-eager pruning methods against me and that they have allowed the flowers to come back so well after a disappointing show last year:

And the yarn... right, yes... the yarn...

I'm finding it hard to get the motivation to work on this project right now. It's the first time I've ever worked a blanket in squares, and I'm finding it difficult to keep the momentum up. Honestly, I'm finding it more fun to scroll on my phone than to pick up one of these suckers. I've thought about taking a break and moving on to something else, but something tells me that if I put this down now, I will never pick it up again:

I think part of the problem is that I have very little confidence in the colour-matching decisions I've made. I think some of them are turning out really nice, but others are a bit iffy. I'm hoping that once I've got them all assembled, it'll just be the joyous outflow of colours I am imagining in my head. I mean, if I wanted an easy time, I could have made a single-colour blanket, but how interesting would that be?

Except... I'm not finding the squares particularly interesting at the moment. I'm not sure what to do about that, except to keep on going. Maybe I need a goal to get through more of the yarn. I mean, if I can get through twenty-two eggs in two days, what's a few more squares?

How weird that I am more motivated by eggs than by yarn. What strange times indeed.

I'm off to sort out dinner. No, we're not having eggs. But I betcha I'll get through another dozen by the next blogpost...

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Book From Nowhere

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. ―-Albert Einstein, The World As I See It

I've been tired a lot recently. New schedules, new procedures, new routines... it's involving a lot of brainpower and, as a result, a lot of sleep. Seymour will now demonstrate what I mean:

I was hoping to have more squares finished for my blanket this week, but I've found myself zoning out on the couch most of the time when I'm not at work. I am quite alright with this. I learned a long time ago that a tired yarnie should not touch yarn. It's a recipe for disaster.

Meanwhile, we had a bit of a mystery this week. The hubby appeared in the living room one day after checking the mail waving a parcel in my general direction.

"Looks like your order arrived," he said. 

"Oh," I said. Like most of the rest of the Western world right now, most new purchases arrive in the mail these days. The trouble is, I couldn't think of anything I had ordered recently. Given my current tired brain these days, that is not entirely shocking. But when I opened the parcel, I found this:

It's a journal where each page is split into five sections and you're supposed to write a line in one section each day for one year, then the next year, you write in the second section on each page, whilst reflecting on what you wrote the previous year. And so on and so forth for five years of journaling and reflecting. It's a nice idea and an interesting way to journal.

Except I didn't order it. I don't know anything about where it came from, apart from the fact that it was sent via Royal Mail from the UK. There were no notes or messages or cards in it, not even a packing slip. I messaged a few of my UK friends, awkwardly trying to question them to see if they had tried to send a surprise gift. None of them knew anything about it.

So yeah. I have a journal from somewhere in the UK from someone I don't know who somehow knows my address. That's weird... but I guess there are worse things I could get from nowhere.

Meanwhile, I've spent most of this weekend looking out at the front garden, looking at the blooms which are slowly starting to open. It's an exciting time of year for the garden:

I've also spent the weekend cooking up lunches and dinners in preparation for the coming week. I also experimented with a baked veggie and salmon tart today. It was awesome:

And I did finish a couple of squares this week, which I am happy about... even if it wasn't the big pile I hoped to be sharing today. It's been challenging to keep my tension consistent and to produce squares that are all roughly the same size. I sorta wish I'd just winged it and made a few improvised granny squares, but I think I'm going to be happier with the result if I keep going on this. I'm just hoping I don't get bored before I get enough to make a blanket:

Bored, you say?

Anyway, I'm off to make some dinner. Have a good, safe week!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Twists and Turns: Cake and Life

Clay in the hands of a good potter suffers so many good turns, but in the end, we see its real and true shape and form! ―- Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
I often wonder what I would be doing if I had taken a different route in life amongst its many twists and turns. I sometimes wonder if I could be an artist. Or maybe I would be in marketing. Or maybe I would be a cook. Or maybe I would work in a kitchenware shop... so I could spend my day looking at cool things like this:

That, friends, is a Nordicware Heritage Bundt Tin. Yes, it has a name. And yes, you need to use some cooking spray in it. And yes, it is heavier than it looks.

Maybe I could have been a baker.

It was a rainy, grey day outside, so I decided to turn the kitchen into this:

Which then turned into this. The recipe is called Persephone, A Zingy Grapefruit Yogurt Cake:

How's that for an example of twists and turns?

The recipe called for a grapefruit-infused icing to drizzle over the top. I stood over the cake for a while trying to figure out the best way to drizzle icing over it without making it look like someone had sneezed over it by accident. In the end, I stood over it with a spoon in my hand, carefully guiding the icing into each of those grooves:

I think it worked out ok. And it's always nice to have extra icing pooling on the sides... I call it dipping sauce:

I agonized over how I was going to cut it, but the hubby suggested I just go for it and cut it like any other cake. And well, that turned out pretty cool as well. And it tasted even better if I do say so myself:

Meanwhile, I had a crazy week... real life came back to me and my work re-opened, which involved a lot of planning and a lot of supplies and a lot of meetings and emails and text messages at all hours of the day... and I think it affected my yarn mojo because the project that this was supposed to be was kind of a flop. So I would it all back and left it on the table for a time when I have more energy and more patience and fewer emails to read:

Instead, I pulled out a colour sampler back I ordered a few weeks ago. I've been daydreaming about a quilt I saw online a while back which was made of lots of cute little faux squares and immediately thought to myself, "I wonder if I could make something like that."

I love the watercolour-like palette of this sampler box. Maybe I could have been a painter... but I'm not very good at making colour combinations.

But playing with these is good practice. The trouble is that I'm not working off a single blanket pattern but rather a few random crochet square patterns, and I'm having a bit of a challenge trying to keep them all the same size. I think I've got it mostly worked out now:

I've been resting for most of this weekend, trying to recover from all that happened last week. I looked over at Seymour yesterday and realized that he was demonstrating a career I might be pretty good at...

Professional Napper. Looks like the ticket to me.

Time for dinner and more rest. Have a good week.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Real String Theory

String theory is one of the most famous ideas in modern physics, but it is also one of the most confusing. At its heart is the idea that the fundamental particles we observe are not point-like dots, but rather tiny strings that are so small that our best instruments cannot tell that they are not points. It also predicts that there are extra dimensions to space beyond the obvious length, breadth and depth, but we do not experience them because they are bunched up in tiny spaces. --Michael Marshall in New Scientist, 15 Apr 2009
I consider myself pretty intelligent. I'm good at solving problems and I enjoy figuring out difficult puzzles. I think this is why I enjoy working with yarn so much: I enjoy working out the math and the measurements to turn string into garments and objects.

But what I don't understand yarn itself. I mean... like what the heck, yarn? Why don't I understand you? Do you operate in a totally different dimension? The yarn dimension?

Case in point: I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon and evening searching my house for a ball of yarn which I AM SURE IS HERE SOMEWHERE, but I can't for the life of me find it. I looked through every single ball in my stash, which is not insubstantial and did not see any sign of it. Then I searched every room, every drawer, every box... nada. I even looked in Seymour's toy box, in case he decided to save it for himself. I knew I was really in trouble when I found myself in the pantry checking all of the shelves... maybe I was holding it while I was searching for a snack...

It is nowhere. And it is driving me crazy.

I have moved on and started to work on something else, but I'd be lying if I said I'd given up on finding it. I just need someone to open up another dimension for me and I'm sure I'll find it in there. It's just a matter of time...

Another example of this weird yarn dimension is my newest finished project. This is my Pulmonaria Lace Shawl, a pattern by Elena Gotlib:

It was a pattern I found to use up a skein of Madelinetosh laceweight yarn. It was a skein of 950 yards and I wanted to try to use the majority of it up. When I looked up the pattern, it said it would use between 600 and 900 yards, depending on how many repeats of the pattern you did and your needle size. I looked through other people's project notes and found that, on average, people were using around 750 yards with a size 2 needle with 5 repeats. I do not own a size 2 needle, but I do own a size 2.5 needle, so I rationalized that I would use around 800-850 yards.

I slogged away and cast off the other night and weight my leftover yarn.

Turns out I used 760 yards. Just 10 yards more than everyone else, even though I used a larger needle. 

*Insert Twilight Zone music here*

Anyway, I still love it:

The textured stitches really bring out the gentle tonal beauty of this yarn. I adore the teal variations throughout. And I am very pleased with how well the beads are sitting. I have a habit of pulling the yarn too tight when I work with beads, but this time I really tried hard to make sure that the beads were seated just right:

It will be rather short for my broad shoulders to wear as a cape, but I really don't care:

And it's hard to see, but I have beads placed all along the bottom edge of the shawl. They give the whole thing a wonderful drape. It's quite elegant:

So, I understand math and I enjoy learning about physics, but I really feel someone should invest some time in yarn physics sometime and explain to me exactly what the heck happened with my missing ball of yarn and my weird miscalculation. I guess I can be grateful that at least I didn't run out of yarn this time.

I'm off to go enjoy the evening. I hope you are well. Have a good week.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Wonderland-y Topsy-Turvy Cake

“She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, ‘Which way? Which way?’, holding her hand on top of her head to feel which way it was growing; and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size. To be sure, this is what generally happens when one eats cake; but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”-― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
It rained quite a bit last week. As I am a consummate worrier, it's always a relief to me to see rain this time of year. I've seen enough dry summers and smoky forest fire seasons to be the sort of person who welcomes rain whenever it comes. During a short dry spell, we went out for a walk at a nearby trail and sat for a while. I relished the sound of the full creek rushing by:

There nothing quite like rain to make things grow. You can water and water and water your plants from a hose all you like, but it's always the rain that triggers the miraculous blooms of spring. This thing lives in my yard, and I have no idea what it is, but it seems to be the first big bloomer of the garden. Spring is truly here:

Spring blooms always bring about hope. I walked past this display one day.  The sign reads, "These are Canadian Liberator Tulips. They were planted by my class in recognition of our Canadian Veteran's involvement in the liberations of the Netherlands 75 years ago. Thank you for your service." Earlier in the day, there was a sign asking folks to leave them alone so that her class could come by and take photos next to it and write what it meant to them. It felt nice to know that even in such a strange time, folks were thinking about what it was like in a time that was probably just as fearful, but we managed to get through that time alright:

The grey days made me want more colourful things in the house. I made this awesome Buddha bowl for lunch one day. I sat and looked at it for a few minutes before digging in. It's nice to eat pretty things:

And the other night, we had this Roasted Cauliflower, Lentil and Spinach Curry for dinner. I never used to be a fan of cauliflower. I have been known to call for the "cancellation of cauliflower" because it is so bland, but I could barely keep my hands off the roasted cauliflower while I was waiting for the curry to thicken. I am enjoying the taste of cauliflower. This means the world truly is a bit upside-down:

Today, the sun came out for a while so Seymour went out to peruse his kingdom:

This morning, I decided to make a sponge cake in honour of my friend's birthday. She lives in Alberta. I know, she didn't get a piece, but more on that later... It's an orange sponge cake with berry jam in the middle. I laughed when I took the layers out of the oven because they are anything but level. I think the oven must be sitting on a tilt or something. It looks like a cake straight out of Alice in Wonderland:

I tried to even it out by putting the thicker edge next to the thinner ones, but it still cracks me up:

I made it for a video tea party with my friend which we planned to have today, except she got called away to a last-minute meeting with her boss. I planned to wear a jaunty hat and toast to her birthday and all that, but at least we got a quickie five-minute chat where I could at least show her what I made. She bought bakery scones and jam, so at least she gets to enjoy something of a treat today. Seymour wore a tie and joined me for the call, but he only stayed long enough for a bit of cake. He's more of a coffee guy, I guess:

Meanwhile, I had a bit of a stall with my current knitting project last week. I was cruising along, working on the second-to-last chart, thinking to myself, "Man, I'll be finished this in no time." And that, as we know, is always a jinx, because about five minutes later I found an extra double-yarn over that didn't belong there. I thought I could just let it drop and fudge my way through it, but then I found another one... and another one... and another one... which meant that I had no choice but to go back and fix them.

And that's when I, like Alice, fell through the proverbial rabbit hole.

Even with a lifeline woven in, ripping back eight rows of lace knitting full of double yarn overs is the worst surgery you can do on your knitting. It took me TWO AND A HALF DAYS to get it back in order, hours and hours hunched over muttering to myself, hoping against hope that I was putting the stitches in all of the right places... After it was all back together, it spent another day in the naughty corner. It's all back on track, but I have been finding errors regularly for the last few rows. It's gonna be a long stretch with this one:

It's stuff like this that makes cake so important. The world is still a strange, upside-down, Wonderland-y sort of place at the moment, but the simple act of being able to eat a cake without incident sorta makes things normal again... even for a while. And even when it's a crooked, topsy-turvy cake.

Time to think about some dinner now. Have a good, safe week!